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Unbridling the Western Film Auteur

Contemporary, Transnational and Intertextual Explorations

Edited By Emma Hamilton and Alistair Rolls

According to Jim Kitses (1969), the Western originally offered American directors a rich canvas to express a singular authorial vision of the American past and its significance. The Western’s recognizable conventions and symbols, rich filmic heritage, and connections to pulp fiction created a widely spoken «language» for self-expression and supplemented each filmmaker’s power to express their vision of American society. This volume seeks to re-examine the significance of auteur theory for the Western by analysing the auteur director «unbridled» by traditional definitions or national contexts.

This book renders a complex portrait of the Western auteur by considering the genre in a transnational context. It proposes that narrow views of auteurism should be reconsidered in favour of broader definitions that see meaning created, both intentionally and unintentionally, by a director; by other artistic contributors, including actors and the audience; or through the intersection with other theoretical concepts such as re-allegorization. In so doing, it illuminates the Western as a vehicle for expressing complex ideas of national and transnational identity.


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1. Introduction. Editors on Auteurs: Thoughts on Auteurism from the Frontier (Emma Hamilton / Alistair Rolls)


Emma Hamilton and Alistair Rolls 1 Introduction. Editors on Auteurs: Thoughts on Auteurism from the Frontier Abstract This edited collection explores and analyses a theoretical concept that – like the Western film genre itself – has been declared ‘dead’, only to rise up again in new and innovative ways as a framework through which to examine film and filmmakers. Auteur theory, and its usefulness as an analytical tool, has been a site of contestation since its inception in the late 1940s/1950s by French cinema theorists. Primarily characterized by the notion that, like any other art form, films can result from the ‘authorship’ of an individual – the direc- tor – auteur theory has been significant in elevating cinematic products once considered massified, ‘low’ culture and in reconceptualizing directors as legitimate artists capable of transcending potential constraints inherent in film production. This chapter will explore the development of auteur conceptualization and how that fits within contemporary developments in film theory and the Western. Auteur theory had its origins in Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s; it was stimulated both by the emergence of New Wave French cinema and by a desire to innovate existing (French) theories of cinema analysis.1 French 1 Indeed, we acknowledge that even the term ‘theory’ is a site of contestation; while ‘auteur theory’ is a commonly used and recognized term in film theory, and one that is referred to throughout this volume, many theorists point out, for example, that ‘auteurism was never a theory’ (Lapsley and Westlake 1988: 106)...

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